Burke's covering letter to Henry Dundas, dated April 9, 1792, explains that he had written his sketch of a code for the regulation and eventual suppression of both the slave trade and slavery itself in the British West Indian colonies "near twelve years ago," in the first half of 1780. When he wrote the sketch, Burke was ahead of his times, since organized efforts to abolish the slave trade did not begin until the second half of that decade, when William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson founded the Abolition Society in 1787, and the Crown in 1788 appointed a committee of the Privy Council to inquire into the trade.
Henry Dundas (1742-1811) was Home Secretary in William Pitt the Younger's government when he asked Burke for a copy of the sketch, with a view to introducing legislation to regulate and ameliorate the harsh conditions of the slave trade. Partial abolition of the trade in the British dominions did not begin, however, until 1806, and complete abolition was enacted only in 1811. Partial abolition of slavery itself began in 1823; complete abolition was enacted in 1833, but was intended to be achieved gradually through a period of apprenticeship for the slaves, not all of whom were set free until 1838.
This gradualist approach to freeing the slaves was much in Burke's way of thinking. Carl Cone remarks in his
It may be that the end of slavery in the United States could have been achieved only through a long and bloody war, as great historical changes so often have been, and that Burke's program of gradual and progressive abolition was unduly idealistic in American circumstances. Yet emancipation à la Burke surely would have been a better way of doing it, if it were possible. In any case, this
A Letter to the Right Hon. Henry Dundas, One of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State
[With the Sketch of a Negro Code]
I should have been punctual in sending you the Sketch I promised of my old African Code, if some friends from London had not come in upon me last Saturday, and engaged me till noon this day; I send this pacquet by one of them, who is still here. If what I send be, as under present circumstances it must be, imperfect, you will excuse it, as being done near twelve years ago. About four years since I made an abstract of it; upon which I cannot at present lay my hands; but I hope the marginal heads will in some measure supply it.
If the African Trade could be considered with regard to itself only, and as a single object, I should think the utter abolition to be, on the whole, more advisable, than any scheme of regulation and reform. Rather than suffer it to continue as it is, I heartily wish it at an end. What has been lately done, has been done by a popular spirit, which seldom calls for, and indeed very rarely relishes, a system made up of a great variety of parts, and which is to operate its effect in a great length of time. The people like short methods; the consequences of which they sometimes have reason to repent of. Abolition is but a single act. To prove the nature of the trade, and to expose it properly, required, indeed, a vast collection of materials, which have been laboriously collected, and compiled with great judgment. It required also much perseverance and address to excite the spirit, which has been excited without doors, and which has carried it through. The greatest eloquence ever displayed in the House has been employed to second the efforts, which have been made abroad. All this, however, leads but to one single resolve. When this was done, all was done. I speak of absolute and immediate abolition, the point, which the first motions went to, and which is in effect still pressed; though in this Session, according to order, it cannot take effect. A remote, and a gradual abolition, though they may be connected, are not the same thing. The idea of the House seems to me, if I rightly comprehend it, that the two things are to be combined; that is to say, that the trade is gradually to decline, and to cease entirely at a determinate period. To make the abolition gradual, the regulations must operate as a strong discouragement. But it is much to be feared, that a trade continued and discouraged, and with a sentence of death passed upon it, will perpetuate much ill blood between those, who struggle for the abolition, and those, who contend for an effectual continuance.
At the time when I formed the plan, which I have the honour to transmit to you, an abolition of the Slave Trade would have appeared a very chimerical project. My plan, therefore, supposes the continued existence of that commerce. Taking for my basis that I had an incurable evil to deal with, I cast about how I should make it as small an evil as possible, and draw out of it some collateral good.
In turning the matter over in my mind, at that time, and since, I never was able to consider the African Trade upon a ground disconnected with the employment of Negroes in the West Indies, and distinct from their condition in the plantations, whereon they serve. I conceived, that the true origin of the trade was not in the place it was begun at, but at the place of its final destination. I therefore was, and I still am, of opinion, that the whole work ought to be taken up together; and that a gradual abolition of Slavery in the West Indies ought to go hand in hand with any thing, which should be done with regard to its supply from the Coast of Africa. I could not trust a cessation of the demand for this supply to the mere operation of any abstract principle, (such as, that if their supply was cut off the Planters would encourage and produce an effectual population,) knowing that nothing can be more uncertain than the operation of general principles, if they are not embodied in specifick regulations. I am very apprehensive, that so long as the Slavery continues some means for its supply will be found. If so, I am persuaded that it is better to allow the evil, in order to correct it, than by endeavouring to forbid, what we cannot be able wholly to prevent, to leave it under an illegal, and therefore an unreformed, existence. It is not that my plan does not lead to the extinction of the Slave Trade; but it is through a very slow progress, the chief effect of which is to be operated in our own plantations; by rendering, in a length of time, all foreign supply unnecessary. It was my wish, whilst the Slavery continued, and the consequent commerce, to take such measures as to civilize the Coast of Africa by the trade, which now renders it more barbarous; and to lead, by degrees, to a more reputable, and, possibly, a more profitable, connection with it, than we maintain at present.
I am sure that you will consider, as a mark of my confidence in yours and Mr Pitt's honour and generosity, that I venture to put into your hands a scheme composed of many and intricate combinations, without a full explanatory preface, or any attendant notes, to point out the principles, upon which I proceeded, in every regulation, which I have proposed towards the civilization and gradual manumission of Negroes in the two hemispheres. I confess, I trust infinitely more (according to the sound principles of those, who ever have at any time meliorated the state of mankind) to the effect and influence of religion, than to all the rest of the regulations put together.
Whenever, in my proposed reformation, we take our point of departure from a state of Slavery, we must precede the donation of freedom by disposing the minds of the objects to a disposition to receive it without danger to themselves or to us. The process of bringing free Savages to order and civilization is very different. When a state of Slavery is that, upon which we are to work, the very means, which lead to liberty, must partake of compulsion. The minds of men being crippled with that restraint can do nothing for themselves; every thing must be done for them. The regulations can owe little to consent. Every thing must be the creature of power. Hence it is, that regulations must be multiplied; particularly as you have two parties to deal with. The Planter you must at once restrain and support; and you must control, at the same time that you ease, the servant. This necessarily makes the work a matter of care, labour, and expense. It becomes in its nature complex. But I think neither the object impracticable, nor the expense intolerable; and I am fully convinced, that the cause of humanity would be far more benefited by the continuance of the trade and servitude, regulated and reformed, than by the total destruction of both or either. What I propose, however, is but a beginning of a course of measures, which an experience of the effects of the evil and the reform will enable the Legislature hereafter to supply and correct.
I need not observe to you, that the forms are often neglected, penalties not provided, &c. &c. &c. But all this is merely mechanical, and what a couple of days application would set to rights.
I have seen what has been done by the West Indian Assemblies.*53 It is arrant trifling. They have done little; and what they have done is good for nothing; for it is totally destitute of an executory principle. This is the point, to which I have applied my whole diligence. It is easy enough to say what shall be done: to cause it to be done, Hic labor, hoc opus.*54
I ought not to apologize for letting this scheme lie beyond the period of the Horatian keeping—*55 I ought much more to entreat an excuse for producing it now. Its whole value (if it has any) is the coherence and mutual dependency of parts in the scheme; separately they can be of little or no use.
I have the honour to be, with very great respect and regard,
Sketch of the Negro Code
This Constitution consists of four principal members.
I. The rules for qualifying a ship for the African Trade.
Whereas it is expedient, and conformable to the principles of true religion and morality, and to the rules of sound policy, to put an end to all traffick in the persons of men, and to the detention of their said persons in a state of slavery, as soon as the same may be effected without producing great inconveniences in the sudden change of practices of such long standing; and, during the time of the continuance of the said practices, it is desirable and expedient, by proper regulations, to lessen the inconveniences and evils attendant on the said traffick and state of servitude, until both shall be gradually done away:
And whereas the objects of the said trade, and consequential servitude, and the grievances resulting therefrom, come under the principal heads following, the regulations ought thereto to be severally applied; that is to say, that provision should be made by the said regulations,
1st. For duly qualifying ships for the said traffick;
Be it therefore enacted, that every ship or trading vessel, which is intended for the Negro Trade, with the name of the owner or owners thereof, shall be entered and registered as ships trading to the West Indies are by law to be registered, with the further provisions following:
1. The said entry and register shall contain an account of the greatest number of Negroes, of all descriptions, which are proposed to be taken into the said ship or trading vessel; and the said ship, before she is permitted to be entered outwards, shall be surveyed by a Ship-Carpenter to be appointed by the Collector of the Port, from which the said vessel is to depart, and by a Surgeon, also appointed by the Collector, who hath been conversant in the service of the said trade, but not at the time actually engaged or covenanted therein; and the said Carpenter and Surgeon shall report to the Collector, or, in his absence, to the next principal Officer of the Port, upon oath (which oath the said Collector or principal Officer is hereby empowered to administer) her measurement, and what she contains in builder's tonnage, and that she has feet of grated port-holes between the decks, and that she is otherwise fitly found as a good transport-vessel.
2. And be it enacted, that no ship employed in the said trade shall upon any pretence take in more Negroes than one grown man or woman for one ton and half of builder's tonnage, nor more than one boy or girl for one ton.
3. That the said ship or other vessel shall lay in, in proportion to the ship's company of the said vessel, and the number of Negroes registered, a full and sufficient store of sound provision, so as to be secure against all probable delays and accidents; namely, salted beef, pork, salt-fish, butter, cheese, biscuit, flour, rice, oatmeal, and white peas; but no horse-beans, or other inferiour provisions; and the said ship shall be properly provided with water-casks or jars, in proportion to the intended number of the said Negroes; and the said ship shall be also provided with a proper and sufficient stock of coals or fire-wood.
4. And every ship, entered as aforesaid, shall take out a coarse shirt, and a pair of trowsers, or petticoat, for each Negro intended to be taken aboard; as also a mat, or coarse mattress, or hammock, for the use of the said Negroes.
The proportions of provision, fuel and clothing, to be regulated by the Table annexed to this Act.
5. And be it enacted, that no ship shall be permitted to proceed on the said voyage or adventure, until the Searcher of the Port, from whence the said vessel shall sail, or such person as he shall appoint to act for him, shall report to the Collector, that he hath inspected the said stores, and that the ship is accommodated and provided in the manner hereby directed.
6. And be it enacted, that no guns be exported to the Coast of Africa, in the said or any other trade, unless the same be duly marked with the maker's name on the barrels before they are put into the stocks, and vouched by an Inspector in the place where the same are made, to be without fraud, and sufficient and merchantable arms.
7. And be it enacted, that before any ship as aforesaid shall proceed on her voyage, the owner or owners, or an Attorney by them named, if the owners are more than two, and the master, shall severally give bond, the owners by themselves, the master for himself, that the said master shall duly conform himself in all things to the regulations in this Act contained, so far as the same regards his part in executing and conforming to the same.
II. And whereas in providing for the second object of this Act, that is to say, for the trade on the Coast of Africa, it is first prudent not only to provide against the manifold abuses, to which a trade of that nature is liable, but that the same may be accompanied, as far as it is possible, with such advantages to the Natives as may tend to the civilizing them, and enabling them to enrich themselves by means more desirable, and to carry on hereafter a trade more advantageous and honourable to all parties:
And whereas religion, order, morality and virtue, are the elemental principles, and the knowledge of letters, arts and handicraft trades, the chief means of such civilization and improvement; for the better attainment of the said good purposes,
1. Be it hereby enacted, that the Coast of Africa, on which the said trade for Negroes may be carried on, shall be and is hereby divided into Marts or Staples*56 as hereafter follows [here name the Marts.] And be it enacted, that it shall not be lawful for the master of any ship to purchase any Negro or Negroes, but at one of the said Marts or Staples.
2. That the Directors of the African Company*57 shall appoint, where not already appointed, a Governour, with three Counsellors, at each of the said Marts, with a salary of to the Governour, and of to each of the said Counsellors. The said Governour, or in his absence or illness, the senior Counsellor, shall and is hereby empowered to act as a Justice of the Peace, and they or either of them are authorized, ordered and directed, to provide for the peace of the Settlement, and the good regulation of their station and stations severally, according to the rules of justice, to the directions of this Act, and the instructions they shall receive from time to time from the said African Company: and the said African Company is hereby authorized to prepare instructions, with the assent of the Lords of His Majesty's Privy Council, which shall be binding in all things not contrary to this Act, or to the Laws of England, on the said Governours and Counsellors, and every of them, and on all persons acting in commission with them under this Act, and on all persons residing within the jurisdiction of the Magistrates of the said Mart.
3. And be it enacted, that the Lord High Admiral, or Commissioners for executing his office, shall appoint one or more, as they shall see convenient, of his Majesty's ships or sloops of war, under the command severally of a Post Captain, or Master and Commander, to each Mart, as a naval station.
4. And be it enacted, that the Lord High Treasurer, or the Commissioners for executing his office, shall name two Inspectors of the said trade at every Mart, who shall provide for the execution of this Act, according to the directions thereof, so far as shall relate to them; and it is hereby provided and enacted, that as cases of sudden emergency may arise, the said Governour or first Counsellor and the first Commander of his Majesty's ship or ships on the said station, and the said Inspectors, or the majority of them, the Governour having a double or casting vote, shall have power and authority to make such occasional rules and orders relating to the said trade, as shall not be contrary to the instructions of the African Company, and which shall be valid until the same are revoked by the said African Company.
5. That the said African Company is hereby authorized to purchase, if the same may conveniently be done, with the consent of the Privy Council, any lands adjoining to the Fort or principal Mart aforesaid, not exceeding acres, and to make allotments of the same. No allotment to one person to exceed (on pain of forfeiture) acres.
7. And be it enacted, that the African Company shall appoint one sufficient schoolmaster, who shall be approved by the Bishop of London, and who shall be capable of teaching writing, arithmetick, surveying, and mensuration, at a salary of and the said African Company is hereby authorized to provide, for each Settlement, a Carpenter and Blacksmith, with such encouragement as to them shall seem expedient; who shall take each two apprentices from amongst the Natives, to instruct them in the several trades, the African Company allowing them, as a fee for each apprentice, And the said African Company shall appoint one Surgeon, and one Surgeon's Mate, who are to be approved on examination at Surgeon's Hall, to each Fort or Mart, with a salary of for the Surgeon, and for his Mate and the said Surgeon shall take one native apprentice, at a fee to be settled by the African Company.
8. And be it enacted, that the said Catechist, Schoolmaster, Surgeon, and Surgeon's Mate, as well as the tradesmen in the Company's Service, shall be obedient to the orders they shall from time to time receive from the Governour and Council of each Fort; and if they, or any of them, or any other person, in whatever station, shall appear, on complaint and proof to the majority of the Commissioners, to lead a disorderly and debauched life, or use any profane or impious discourses, to the danger of defeating the purposes of this institution, and to the scandal of the Natives, who are to be led, by all due means, into a respect for our holy religion, and a desire of partaking of the benefits thereof, they are authorized and directed to suspend the said person from his office, or the exercise of his trade, and to send him to England (but without any hard confinement, except in case of resistance) with a complaint, with inquiry and proofs adjoined, to the African Company.
9. And be it enacted, that the Bishop of London for the time being shall have full authority to remove the said Chaplain, for such causes as to him shall seem reasonable.
10. That no Governour, Counsellor, Inspector, Chaplain, Surgeon, or Schoolmaster, shall be concerned, or have any share, directly or indirectly, in the Negro Trade, on pain of
11. Be it enacted, that the said Governour and Council shall keep a journal of all their proceedings, and a book, in which copies of all their correspondence shall be entered, and they shall transmit copies of the said journals and letter-book, and their books of accounts, to the African Company, who, within of their receipt thereof, shall communicate the same to one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State.
12. And be it enacted, that the said Chaplain, or principal Minister, shall correspond with the Bishop of London, and faithfully and diligently transmit to him an account of whatever hath been done for the advancement of religion, morality and learning, amongst the Natives.
13. And be it enacted, that no Negro shall be conclusively sold until he shall be attested by the two Inspectors and Chaplain; or in case of the illness of any of them, by one Inspector, and the Governour, or one of the Council; who are hereby authorized and directed, by the best means in their power, to examine into the circumstances and condition of the persons exposed to sale.
14. And, for the better direction of the said Inspectors, no persons are to be sold, who, to the best judgment of the said Inspectors, shall be above thirty-five years of age, or who shall appear, on examination, stolen or carried away, by the dealers, by surprise; nor any person, who is able to read in the Arabian or any other book; nor any woman, who shall appear to be advanced three months in pregnancy; nor any person distorted or feeble, unless the said persons are consenting to such sale; or any person afflicted with a grievous or contagious distemper. But if any person so offered is only lightly disordered, the said person may be sold; but must be kept in the Hospital of the Mart, and shall not be shipped until completely cured.
15. Be it enacted, that no Black or European Factor or Trader into the interiour country, or on the coast, (the Masters of English ships only excepted, for whose good conduct provision is otherwise herein made) shall be permitted to buy or sell in any of the said Marts, unless he be approved by the Governour of the Mart, in which he is to deal, or, in his absence or disability, by the senior Counsellor for the time being, and obtaining a license from such Governour or Counsellor: and the said Traders and Factors shall, severally or jointly, as they shall be concerned, before they shall obtain the said license, be bound in a recognizance, with such Surety for his or their good behaviour, as to the said Governour shall seem the best, that can be obtained.
16. Be it enacted, that the said Governour, or other authority aforesaid, shall examine, as by duty of office, into the conduct of all such Traders and Factors, and shall receive and publickly hear (with the assistance of the Council and Inspectors aforesaid, and of the Commodore, Captain, or other principal Commander of one of His Majesty's ships on the said station, or as many of the same as can be assembled, two whereof, with the Governour, are hereby enabled to act) all complaints against them, or any of them; and if any black or white Trader or Factor, (other than in this Act excepted) either on inquisition of office, or on complaint, shall be convicted by a majority of the said Commissioners present of stealing or taking by surprise any person or persons whatsoever, whether free, or the Slaves of others, without the consent of their masters; or of wilfully and maliciously killing or maiming any person; or of any cruelty, (necessary restraint only excepted) or of firing houses, or destroying goods, the said Trader or Factor shall be deemed to have forfeited his recognizance, and his Surety to have forfeited his; and the said Trader or Factor, so convicted, shall be for ever disabled from dealing in any of the said Marts, unless the offence shall not be that of murder, maiming, arson, or stealing or surprising the person, and shall appear to the Commissioners aforesaid to merit only, besides the penalty of his bond, a suspension for one year: and the said Trader or Factor, so convicted of murder, maiming, arson, stealing or surprising the person, shall, if a Native, be delivered over to the Prince, to whom he belongs, to execute further justice on him. But it is hereby provided and enacted, that if any European shall be convicted of any of the said offences, he shall be sent to Europe, together with the evidence against him; and on the warrant of the said Commissioners the Keeper of any of His Majesty's Jails in London, Bristol, Liverpool, or Glasgow, shall receive him, until he be delivered according to due course of law, as if the said offences had been committed within the cities and towns aforesaid.
17. Be it further enacted, that if the said Governour, &c. shall be satisfied that any person or persons are exposed to sale, who have been stolen or surprised as aforesaid, or are not within the qualifications of sale in this Act described, they are hereby authorized and required, if it can be done, to send the persons so exposed to sale to their original habitation or settlement, in the manner they shall deem best for their security (the reasonable charges whereof shall be allowed to the said Governour by the African Company) unless the said persons choose to sell themselves; and then, and in that case, their value in money and goods, at their pleasure, shall be secured to them, and be applicable to their use, without any dominion over the same of any purchaser, or of any master, to whom they may in any Colony or Plantation be sold, and which shall always be in some of his Master's Colonies and Plantations only. And the Master of the ship, in which such person shall embark, shall give bond for the faithful execution of his part of the trust at the Island where he shall break bulk.
18. Be it further enacted, that besides the hospitals on shore, one or more hospital-ships shall be employed at each of the said chief Marts, wherein Slaves taken ill in the trading ships shall be accommodated until they shall be cured; and then the owner may reclaim, and shall receive them, paying the charges, which shall be settled by regulation to be made by the authority in this Act enabled to provide such regulations.
III. And whereas it is necessary that regulations be made to prevent abuses in the passage from Africa to the West Indies;
1. Be it further enacted, that the Commander or Lieutenant of the King's ship on each station shall have authority, as often as he shall see occasion, attended with one other of his Officers, and his Surgeon or Mate, to enter into and inspect every trading ship, in order to provide for the due execution of this Act, and of any ordinances made in virtue thereof and conformable thereto, by the authorities herein constituted and appointed: and the said Officer and Officers are hereby required to examine every trading ship before she sails, and to stop the sailing of the said ship, for the breach of the said rules and ordinances, until the Governour in Council shall order and direct otherwise; and the Master of the said ship shall not presume, under the penalty of ——— to be recovered in the Courts of the West Indies, to sail without a certificate from the Commander aforesaid, and one of the Inspectors in this Act appointed, that the vessel is provided with stores and other accommodation sufficient for her voyage, and has not a greater number of Slaves on board than by the provisions of this Act is allowed.
2. And be it enacted, that the Governour and Council, with the assistance of the said Naval Commander, shall have power to give such special written instructions, for the health, discipline, and care of the said Slaves, during their passage, as to them shall seem good.
3. And be it further enacted, that each Slave, at entering the said ship, is to receive some present, not exceeding in value ———, to be provided according to the instructions aforesaid, and musical instruments, according to the fashion of the country, are to be provided.
4. And be it further enacted, that the Negroes on board the transports, and the seamen, who navigate the same, are to receive their daily allowance, according to the Table hereunto annexed, together with a certain quantity of spirits to be mixed with their water. And it is enacted, that the Table is to be fixed, and continue for one week after sailing, in some conspicuous part of the said ship, for the seamen's inspection of the same.
5. And be it enacted, that the Captain of each trading vessel shall be enabled, and is required, to divide the Slaves in his ship into crews of not less than ten, nor more than twenty persons each, and to appoint one Negro man to have such authority severally over each crew, as according to his judgment, with the advice of the Mate and Surgeon, he and they shall see good to commit to them, and to allow to each of them some compensation, in extraordinary diet and presents, not exceeding [ten shillings.]
6. And be it enacted, that any European Officer or seaman, having unlawful communication with any woman Slave, shall, if an Officer, pay five pounds to the use of the said woman, on landing her from the said ship, to be stopped out of his wages; or if a seaman, forty shillings; the said penalties to be recovered on the testimony of the woman so abused, and one other.
7. And be it enacted, that all and every Commander of a vessel or vessels employed in slave trade, having received certificates from the port of the outfit, and from the proper Officers in Africa and the West Indies of their having conformed to the regulations of this Act, and of their not having lost more than one in thirty of their Slaves by death, shall be entitled to a bounty or premium of [ten pounds.]
IV. And whereas the condition of persons in a state of slavery is such that they are utterly unable to take advantage of any remedy, which the laws may provide for their protection, and the amendment of their condition, and have not the proper means of pursuing any process for the same, but are and must be under guardianship; and whereas it is not fitting that they should be under the sole guardianship of their Masters, or their Attornies and Overseers, to whom their grievances, whenever they suffer any, must ordinarily be owing;
1. Be it therefore enacted, that His Majesty's Attorney General for the time being successively shall, by his office, exercise the trust and employment of Protector of Negroes within the island, in which he is or shall be Attorney General to His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors: and that the said Attorney General, Protector of Negroes, is hereby authorized to hear any complaint on the part of any Negro or Negroes, and inquire into the same, or to institute an inquiry ex officio into any abuses, and to call before him, and examine, witnesses upon oath, relative to the subject matter of the said official inquiry or complaint; and it is hereby enacted and declared, that the said Attorney General, Protector of Negroes, is hereby authorized and empowered, at his discretion, to file an information ex officio for any offences committed against the provisions of this Act, or for any misdemeanors or wrongs against the said Negroes, or any of them.
2. And it is further enacted, that in all trials of such informations, the said Protector of Negroes may and is hereby authorized to challenge, peremptorily, a number not exceeding ——— of the Jury, who shall be impannelled to try the charge in the said information contained.
3. And be it enacted, that the said Attorney General, Protector of Negroes, shall appoint Inspectors, not exceeding the number of ———, at his discretion; and the said Inspectors shall be placed in convenient districts in each island severally, or shall twice in the year make a circuit in the same, according to the direction, which they shall receive from the Protector of Negroes aforesaid; and the Inspectors shall, and they are hereby required, twice in the year, to report in writing to the Protector aforesaid the state and condition of the Negroes in their districts, or on their circuit severally, the number, sex, age, and occupation of the said Negroes on each plantation; and the Overseer, or chief manager on each plantation, is hereby required to furnish an account thereof, within [ten days] after the demand of the said Inspectors, and to permit the Inspector or Inspectors aforesaid to examine into the same; and the said Inspectors shall set forth, in the said report, the distempers, to which the Negroes are most liable, in the several parts of the island.
4. And be it enacted, that the said Protector of Negroes, by and with the consent of the Governour and Chief Judge of each Island, shall form instructions, by which the said Inspectors shall discharge their trust in the manner the least capable of exciting any unreasonable hopes in the said Negroes, or of weakening the proper authority of the Overseer, and shall transmit them to one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State; and when sent back with his approbation, the same shall become the rule for the conduct of the said Inspectors.
5. And be it enacted, that the said Attorney General, Protector of Negroes, shall appoint an office for registering all proceedings relative to the duty of his place, as Protector of Negroes, and shall appoint his chief Clerk to be registrar, with a salary not exceeding ———.
6. And be it enacted, that no Negroes shall be landed for sale in any but the ports following; that is to say, ———; and the Collector of each of the said ports severally shall, within ——— days after the arrival of any ship transporting Negroes, report the same to the Protector of Negroes, or to one of his Inspectors; and the said Protector is hereby authorized and required to examine, or cause to be examined, by one of his Inspectors, with the assistance of the said Collector, or his Deputy, and a Surgeon to be called in on the occasion, the state of the said ship and Negroes; and upon what shall appear to them, the said Protector of Negroes, and the said Collector and Surgeon, to be a sufficient proof, either as arising from their own inspection, or sufficient information on a summary process, of any contravention of this Act, or cruelty to the Negroes, or other malversation of the said Captain, or any of his Officers, the said Protector shall impose a fine on him or them, not exceeding ———; which shall not, however, weaken or invalidate any penalty growing from the bond of the said Master or his owners. And it is hereby provided, that if the said Master, or any of his Officers, shall find himself aggrieved by the said fine, he may, within ——— days, appeal to the Chief Judge, if the Court shall be sitting, or to the Governour, who shall and are required to hear the said parties, and on hearing are to annul or confirm the same.
7. And be it enacted, that no sale of Negroes shall be made but in the presence of an Inspector, and all Negroes shall be sold severally, or in known and ascertained lots, and not otherwise; and a paper, containing the state and description of each Negro severally sold, and of each lot, shall be taken and registered in the office aforesaid; and if on inspection or information it shall be found that any Negroes shall have, in the same ship, or any other at the same time examined, a wife, an husband, a brother, sister, or child, the person, or persons so related, shall not be sold separately at that or any future sale.
8. And be it enacted, that each and every of His Majesty's Islands and Plantations, in which Negroes are used in cultivation, shall be, by the Governour and the Protector of Negroes for the time being, divided into districts, allowing as much as convenience will admit to the present division into parishes, and subdividing them, where necessary, into districts, according to the number of Negroes. And the said Governour and Protector of Negroes shall cause in each district a church to be built in a convenient place, and a cemetery annexed, and an house for the residence of a Clergyman, with ——— acres of land annexed; and they are hereby authorized to treat for the necessary ground with the proprietor, who is hereby obliged to sell and dispose of the same to the said use; and in case of dispute concerning the value, the same to be settled by a Jury as in like cases is accustomed.
9. And be it enacted, that in each of the said districts shall be established a Presbyter of the Church of England, as by law established, who shall appoint under him one Clerk, who shall be a free Negro, when such properly qualified can be found; (otherwise a white man) with a salary, in each case, of ———; and the said Minister and Clerk, both or one, shall instruct the said Negroes in the Church Catechism, or such other as shall be provided by the authority in this Act named: and the said Minister shall baptize, as he shall think fit, all Negroes not baptized, and not belonging to Dissenters from the Church of England.
10. And the principal Overseer of each plantation is hereby required to deliver annually unto the Minister a list of all the Negroes upon his plantation, distinguishing their sex and age, and shall, under a penalty of ———, cause all the Negroes under his care, above the age of ——— years, to attend Divine Service once on every Sunday, except in case of sickness, infirmity, or other necessary cause to be given at the time; and shall, by himself or one of those, who are under him, provide for the orderly behaviour of the Negroes under him, and cause them to return to his plantation when Divine Service, or Administration of Sacraments, or Catechism is ended.
11. And be it enacted, that the Minister shall have power to punish any Negro for disorderly conduct during divine Service, by a punishment not exceeding [ten] blows, to be given in one day, and for one offence, which the Overseer, or his under-agent or agents, is hereby directed, according to the orders of the said Minister, effectually to inflict, whenever the same shall be ordered.
12. And be it enacted, that no spirituous liquors of any kind shall be sold, except in towns, within ——— miles distant of any Church, nor within any district during Divine Service, and an hour preceding, and an hour following, the same; and the Minister of each parish shall and is hereby authorized to act as a Justice of the Peace in enforcing the said regulation.
13. And be it enacted, that every Minister shall keep a register of births, burials and marriages, of all Negroes and Mulattoes in his district.
14. And be it enacted, that the Ministers of the several districts shall meet annually, on the ——— day of ———, in a Synod of the island, to which they belong; and the said Synod shall have for its President such persons as the Bishop of London shall appoint for his Commissary; and the said Synod or General Assembly is hereby authorized, by a majority of voices, to make regulations, which regulations shall be transmitted by the said President or Commissary to the Bishop of London; and when returned by the Bishop of London approved of, then, and not before, the said regulations shall be held in force to bind the said Clergy, their Assistants, Clerks, and Schoolmasters only, and no other persons.
15. And be it enacted, that the said President shall collect matter in the said Assembly, and shall make a report of the state of religion and morals in the several parishes from whence the Synod is deputed, and shall transmit the same, once in the year, in duplicate, through the Governour and Protector of Negroes, to the Bishop of London.
16. And be it enacted and declared, that the Bishop of London for the time being shall be Patron to all and every the said cures in this Act directed, and the said Bishop is hereby required to provide for the due filling thereof, and is to receive from the fund in this Act provided, for the due execution of this Act, a sum not exceeding ——— for each of the said Ministers, for his outfit and passage.
17. And be it enacted, that on misbehaviour, and on complaint from the said Synod, and on hearing the party accused in a plain and summary manner, it shall and may be lawful for the Bishop of London to suspend or to remove any Minister from his cure, as his said offences shall appear to merit.
18. And be it enacted, that for every two districts a school shall be established for young Negroes, to be taught three days in the week, and to be detained from their owner four hours in each day: the number not to be more or fewer than twenty males in each district, who shall be chosen, and vacancies filled, by the Minister of the district; and the said Minister shall pay to the owner of the said boy, and shall be allowed the same in his accounts at the Synod, to the age of twelve years old, three-pence by the day; and for every boy, from twelve years old to fifteen, five-pence by the day.
19. And it is enacted, that if the President of the Synod aforesaid shall certify to the Protector of Negroes, that any boys in the said schools (provided that the number in no one year shall exceed one in the island of Jamaica, and one in two years in the islands of Barbadoes, Antigua, and Grenada; and one in four years in any of the other Islands) do show a remarkable aptitude for learning, the said Protector is hereby authorized and directed to purchase the said boy at the best rate, at which boys of that age and strength have been sold within the year; and the said Negro so purchased shall be under the entire guardianship of the said Protector of Negroes, who shall send him to the Bishop of London, for his further education in England, and may charge in his accounts for the expense of transporting him to England: and the Bishop of London shall provide for the education of such of the said Negroes as he shall think proper subjects, until the age of twenty-four years, and shall order those, who shall fall short of expectation after one year, to be bound apprentice to some handicraft trade; and when his apprenticeship is finished, the Lord Mayor of London is hereby authorized and directed to receive the said Negro from his master, and to transmit him to the island, from which he came in the West Indies, to be there as a free Negro; subject, however, to the direction of the Protector of Negroes, relatively to his behaviour and employment.
20. And it is hereby enacted and provided, that any planter or owner of Negroes, not being of the Church of England, and not choosing to send his Negroes to attend Divine Service in manner by this Act directed, shall give, jointly or severally, as the case shall require, security to the Protector of Negroes, that a competent Minister of some Christian church or congregation shall be provided for the due instruction of the Negroes, and for their performing Divine Service according to the description of the religion of the master or masters, in some church or house thereto allotted, in the manner and with the regulations in this Act prescribed with regard to the exercise of religion according to the Church of England.
Provided always, that the marriages of the said Negroes belonging to Dissenters shall be celebrated only in the Church of the said district, and that a register of the births shall be transmitted to the Minister of the said district.
21. And whereas a state of matrimony, and the government of a family, is a principal means of forming men to a fitness for freedom, and to become good Citizens; Be it enacted, that all Negro men and women, above eighteen years of age for the man, and sixteen for the woman, who have cohabited together for twelve months or upwards, or shall cohabit for the same time, and have a child or children, shall be deemed to all intents and purposes to be married; and either of the parties is authorized to require of the Ministers of the district, to be married in the face of the Church.
22. And be it enacted, that from and after the ——— of ———, all Negro men in an healthy condition, and so reported to be, in case the same is denied, by a Surgeon and by an Inspector of Negroes, being twenty-one year's old or upwards, until fifty, and not being before married, shall, on requisition of the Inspectors, be provided by their Masters or Overseers with a woman not having children living, and not exceeding the age of the man; nor in any case exceeding the age of twenty-five years; and such persons shall be married publickly in the face of the Church.
23. And be it enacted, that if any Negro shall refuse a competent marriage tendered to him, and shall not demand another specifically, such as it may be in his Master's power to provide, the Master or Overseer shall be authorized to constrain him by an increase of work, or a lessening of allowance.
24. And be it enacted, that the Minister in each district shall have, with the assent of the Inspector, full power and authority to punish all acts of adultery, unlawful concubinage, and fornication, amongst Negroes, on hearing and a summary process, by ordering a number of blows, not exceeding for each offence; and if any white person shall be proved, on information in the Supreme Court to be exhibited by the Protector of Negroes, to have committed adultery with any Negro woman, or to have corrupted any Negro woman under sixteen years of age, he shall be fined in the sum of ———, and shall be for ever disabled from serving the office of Overseer of Negroes, or being Attorney to any Plantation.
25. And be it enacted, that no Slaves shall be compelled to do any work for their masters for [three] days after their marriage.
26. And be it enacted, that no woman shall be obliged to field-work, or any other laborious work, for one month before her delivery, or for six weeks afterwards.
27. And be it enacted, that no husband and wife shall be sold separately, if originally belonging to the same master, nor shall any children, under sixteen, be sold separately from their parents, or one parent, if one be living.
28. And be it enacted, that if an husband and wife, which before their intermarriage belonged to different owners, shall be sold, they shall not be sold at such a distance as to prevent mutual help and cohabitation; and of this distance the Minister shall judge, and his certificate of the inconvenient distance shall be valid, so as to make such sale unlawful, and to render the same null and void.
29. And be it enacted, that no Negro shall be compelled to work for his owner at field-work, or any service relative to a plantation, or to work at any handicraft trade, from eleven o'clock on Saturday forenoon until the usual working hour on Monday morning.
30. And whereas habits of industry and sobriety, and the means of acquiring and preserving property, are proper and reasonable preparatives to freedom, and will secure against an abuse of the same; Be it enacted, that every Negro man, who shall have served ten years, and is thirty years of age, and is married, and has had two children born of any marriage, shall obtain the whole of Saturday for himself and his wife, and for his own benefit; and after thirty-seven years of age, the whole of Friday for himself and his wife; provided that in both cases the Minister of the district, and the Inspector of Negroes, shall certify that they know nothing against his peaceable, orderly, and industrious behaviour.
31. And be it enacted, that the Master of every plantation shall provide the materials of a good and substantial hut for each married field Negro; and if his plantation shall exceed ——— acres, he shall allot to the same a portion of land not less than ———: and the said hut and land shall remain and stand annexed to the said Negro, for his natural life, or during his bondage; but the same shall not be alienated without the consent of the owners.
32. And be it enacted, that it shall not be lawful for the owner of any Negro, by himself or any other, to take from him any land, house, cattle, goods or money, acquired by the said Negro, whether by purchase, donation or testament, whether the same has been derived from the owner of the said Negro, or any other.
33. And be it enacted, that if the said Negro shall die possessed of any lands, goods, or chattels, and dies without leaving a wife or issue, it shall be lawful for the said Negro to devise or bequeath the same by his last will; but in case the said Negro shall die intestate, and leave a wife and children, the same shall be distributed amongst them, according to the usage under the Statute, commonly called the Statute of Distributions. But if the Negro shall die intestate without wife or children, then, and in that case his estate shall go to the fund provided for the better execution of this Act.
34. And be it enacted, that no Negro, who is married, and hath resided upon any plantation for twelve months, shall be sold either privately, or by the decree of any Court, but along with the plantation, on which he hath resided, unless he should himself request to be separated therefrom.
35. And be it enacted, that no blows or stripes, exceeding thirteen, shall be inflicted for one offence upon any Negro, without the order of one of His Majesty's Justices of Peace.
36. And it is enacted, that it shall be lawful for the Protector of Negroes, as often as on complaint and hearing he shall be of opinion that any Negro hath been cruelly and inhumanly treated, or when it shall be made to appear to him that an Overseer hath any particular malice, to order, at the desire of the suffering party, the said Negro to be sold to another master.
37. And be it enacted, that, in all cases of injury to member or life, the offences against a Negro shall be deemed and taken to all intents and purposes as if the same were perpetrated against any of His Majesty's Subjects; and the Protector of Negroes, on complaint, or if he shall receive credible information thereof, shall cause an indictment to be presented for the same; and in case of suspicion of any murder of a Negro, an inquest by the Coroner, or Officer acting as such, shall, if practicable, be held into the same.
38. And in order to a gradual manumission of Slaves, as they shall seem fitted to fill the offices of freemen, Be it enacted, that every Negro Slave, being thirty years of age and upwards, and who has had three children born to him in lawful matrimony, and who hath received a certificate from the Minister of his district, or any other Christian teacher, of his regularity in the duties of religion, and of his orderly and good behaviour, may purchase, at rates to be fixed by two Justices of Peace, the freedom of himself, or his wife or children, or of any of them separately, valuing the wife and children, if purchased into liberty by the father of the family, at half only of their marketable values; provided that the said father shall bind himself in a penalty of ——— for the good behaviour of his children.
39. And be it enacted, that it shall be lawful for the Protector of Negroes to purchase the freedom of any Negro, who shall appear to him to excel in any mechanical art, or other knowledge or practice deemed liberal, and the value shall be settled by a Jury.
40. And be it enacted, that the Protector of Negroes shall be and is authorized and required to act as a Magistrate, for the coercion of all idle, disobedient, or disorderly free Negroes, and he shall by office prosecute them for the offences of idleness, drunkenness, quarrelling, gaming, or vagrancy, in the Supreme Court, or cause them to be prosecuted before one Justice of Peace, as the case may require.
41. And be it enacted, that if any free Negro hath been twice convicted for any of the said misdemeanors, and is judged by the said Protector of Negroes, calling to his assistance two justices of the Peace, to be incorrigibly idle, dissolute and vicious, it shall be lawful, by the order of the said Protector and two justices of Peace, to sell the said free Negro into slavery: the purchase-money to be paid to the person so remanded into servitude, or kept in hand by the Protector and Governour for the benefit of his family.
42. And be it enacted, that the Governour in each Colony shall be assistant to the execution of this Act, and shall receive the reports of the Protector, and such other accounts, as he shall judge material, relative thereto, and shall transmit the same annually to one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State.
Notes for this chapter
The West Indian sugar plantations were so dependent on a steady supply of slaves from Africa that little support for limiting the slave trade could be expected of them.
Burke quotes from memory the words of the Sybil to Aeneas before he goes down into Hades. Facilis descensus Averni, she tells him—the way down is easy, but the way back is hard: Hoc opus, hic labor est (as it is in the original)—"This is the task, this the toil." Virgil Aeneid 7.129.
Horace advised a writer to leave nine years between the completion of a composition and its publication, in order to allow time for further thought and revision. Ars Poetica 388-90.
Towns or places which were principal markets for some particular class of merchandise; more narrowly, places in which a body of merchants was granted by the Crown the exclusive right of purchasing certain classes of goods destined for export.
End of Notes
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